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Rick Perry: Trump Might Seize States' Renewable Energy Goals

By Dave Anderson

Rick Perry said Tuesday that the Trump administration is having "very classified" conversations about preempting state and local support for renewable energy under the pretense of national security.

Perry's remarks came during an on-stage interview at the 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit.

As Bloomberg reported:

During an on-stage interview, Perry was asked if the administration would interfere with state policies requiring utilities to get power from renewable sources. Such a move would potentially destroy efforts by California, New York and other states to fight climate change by encouraging the growth of clean power.

Perry didn't rule it out, saying the reliability of the grid was a matter of national security.

"That's a conversation that will occur over the next few years," Perry said. "There may be issues that are so important that the federal government can intervene."

And according to Time's Justin Worland:

During a question and answer period, Perry also suggested that increased reliance on renewable energy sources like wind and solar might make the grid unreliable given they only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, creating national security concerns. The Trump administration might try to preempt state and local governments that use policy to encourage clean energy to address those concerns, Perry said.

"There's a discussion, some of it very classified that will be occurring as we go further," Perry said. "The conversation needs to happen so the local governors and legislators, mayors and city council understand what's at stake here in making sure that our energy security is substantial."

Saqib Rahim of E&E News provided a slightly different quote from Perry:

"There's a conversation, there's a discussion, some of it obviously very classified, that will be occurring as we go forward, to make sure that we have the decisions made by Congress, in a lot of these cases, to protect the security interests of America," he said at BNEF's The Future of Energy Summit, "and that states and local entities do in fact get preempted with some of those decisions."

Perry's remarks re-sparked earlier concerns that the Trump administration could seek to preempt renewable energy standard policies that are now in place in 29 states, as well as renewable energy goals adopted by another nine states. The growing number of local communities that have committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy could also come under fire from the Trump administration.

Renewable Energy Is Reliable and Makes America Safer—Just Ask the Department of Energy

Rick Perry is also facing scrutiny for ordering a study examining "electricity markets and reliability" that was tasked to his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack, who previously played a central role in attacks against rooftop solar for the Edison Electric Institute. Also named to lead work on the study is political appointee Travis Fisher. Fisher previously worked for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and American Energy Alliance (AEA), which have received ample funding from the Koch brothers and coal industry. IER and AEA have long sought to undermine renewable energy standards in states like North Carolina, a national leader in solar energy.

Christian Roselund of PV Magazine responded to Perry's study order by pointing out that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—one of the Dept. of Energy's 17 National Laboratories—has already written studies that show we can rely on renewable energy to provide much more of our electricity than it does today. In fact, one 2012 NREL study found that we could get 80 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2050 using existing technologies. Other studies by states and grid operators confirm that renewable energy is reliable.

Another NREL study documented the significant health and environmental benefits generated by the state renewable energy standards that the Trump administration could try to preempt. In short, these policies make Americans safer by reducing harmful pollution emitted when we burn fossil fuels—especially coal—to produce electricity.

Other reports by clean energy experts have documented the economic security benefits of these state renewable energy standards, which have supported the growth of jobs in the booming solar and wind power industries.

Real world experience also shows that renewable energy is working just fine. Texas, the state where Rick Perry was governor, actually leads the nation in wind energy generation. In fact, nearly a quarter of the electricity generated in Texas during the first quarter of 2017 came from wind.

Ask the Department of Defense, Too

The Dept. of Defense does not appear to share the Trump administration's concerns about renewable energy. In fact, the military has made significant investments in renewable energy in order to enhance national security—an investment that continues with Trump in the White House. The U.S. Navy just recently refuted misleading claims that a new wind farm could interfere with a radar system made by some Republican lawmakers in North Carolina who wrote a letter to the Trump administration.

Climate Change Is a Real Threat to Energy and National Security

In 2015, the Dept. of Energy released a report that documented the threat climate change poses to energy security—and by extension national security—in every region of the U.S.

The Dept. of Defense has also documented the national security risks posed by climate change— risks James Mattis acknowledged during his confirmation as Trump's Secretary of Defense.

Trump's efforts to rollback limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants and his embrace of the so-called "clean coal" put the nation's energy and national security at further risk from climate change. Preempting state and local support for renewables would only increase those risks.

Rick Perry Could Support Renewable Energy by Working for a Smart Grid

Greentech Media reported that Perry made only "sparse" mention of renewable energy at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, but did say he wants to "help renewable energy make its way to the grid … "

Preempting local and state support for renewable energy would only ensure that less renewable energy makes its way to the grid. Perry could instead take positive steps to support integration of renewable energy by working to build a smart grid, the topic of a Dept. of Energy website. He could also support the energy storage revolution that is now underway, thanks in part to earlier investments by the Dept. of Energy.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration's energy policy seems to more squarely align with fossil fuel and utility interests who seek to undermine state and local support for renewable energy.

The Trump Team Is Full of Opponents of State and Local Support for Renewable Energy

Travis Fisher is not the only political pick by the Trump administration that comes with a history of attacking state and local policies that have fueled the growth of renewable energy to benefit funders in the fossil fuel or utility industry.

Trump tapped Thomas Pyle, also of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and American Energy Alliance (AEA), to run his Dept. of Energy transition team. IER and AEA have targeted state renewable energy standard policies with misleading attacks for years. During the 2016 election, Trump responded to an AEA questionnaire with pledges to "review" key U.S. clean energy and climate change policies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and science-based endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has already fulfilled part of that pledge by beginning the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan.

Trump similarly chose climate denier Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Like Fisher and Pyle, Ebell has attacked renewable energy standards in states like Ohio. Greentech Media recently took a rather revealing look at the backgrounds of some other members of Trump's energy beachhead team.

No Uncertainty About State and Local Support for Renewable Energy

At this point, it remains unclear how exactly the Trump administration would use the pretense of reliability concerns to preempt state and local support for renewable energy. If it does seek to preempt state and local control, it will certainly face significant opposition from states and local communities—including those led by Republicans—that are already leading the way on renewable energy.

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Politics

Bernie Sanders: 'This Is Exactly What We Mean When We Talk About Oligarchy'

Despite the numerous controversies and vocal opposition swirling around President Donald Trump's pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Senators voted 52 to 46, largely along party lines, in February to confirm Oklahoma Republican Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator.

It now appears that Koch Industries—the oil and gas conglomerate owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—directly lobbied Congress to confirm Pruitt and spent millions to influence anti-environmental initiatives, a disclosure report shows.

As The Intercept reported:

"The firm's latest disclosure form reports that its in-house corporate lobbying team spent $3.1 million to influence lawmakers over the first three months of the year on a variety of issues affecting its bottom line, including the EPA's Clean Power Rule on carbon emissions, carbon pricing, the Clean Air Act and 'nominations for various positions at the Department of Energy.'"

"This is exactly what we mean when we talk about oligarchy. Multi-billionaires and corporations should not have the power to pick and choose who is in charge of our federal agencies," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in response to The Intercept's report. "But that is exactly what happened—Koch Industries spent millions on lobbying Congress to confirm Scott Pruitt, our head of the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn't believe in environmental protection."

Koch Industries has contributed $38.5 million to federal candidates over the last 25 years and spent another $117 million since 1998 on lobbying. DeSmog reported in February that the company's deep pockets are contributing campaign funds to four GOP representatives who have introduced legislation to completely abolish the EPA.

Sanders, who grilled Pruitt during the confirmation hearings, has been outspoken in his criticism of Pruitt as well as the Trump administration's generally dismissive attitude towards climate change.

"It's clear that Trump doesn't represent working families. His agenda benefits the Koch brothers and their billionaire [friends]. Our job is to stand together to defeat the drift toward oligarchy and create a vibrant democracy—not one controlled by corporate interests," Sanders said.

Pruitt has reported ties to the fossil fuel industry and he repeatedly sued the EPA when he was Oklahoma Attorney General. In 2014, he was caught sending letters on state government letterheads to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. As it turns out, the letter was written by lawyers for one of the state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.

Following Trump's executive order, Pruitt plans to kill the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Pruitt also challenged the plan when he was Oklahoma AG.

Pruitt said in March that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change.

The Intercept also detailed how Pruitt's nomination as EPA head was strongly backed by industry groups:

"The American Energy Alliance, an advocacy group founded by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle, issued a letter in support of Pruitt along with other Koch-backed conservative nonprofits. America Rising Squared, a political research outfit that has harassed environmental activists, formed a special website—now deleted—to respond to criticism of Pruitt's record."

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New York Times Defends Hiring Climate Science Denier

By Graham Readfearn

The New York Times has been defending the paper's hiring of a climate science denier, fighting off its critics with what it claims is a standard fashioned from hardened "intellectual honesty."

The controversial hire in question is that of Bret Stephens, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, who has joined the New York Times as a columnist and deputy editorial page editor.

While at the Wall Street Journal, Stephens consistently undermined and disparaged climate change, one time describing it as an "imaginary enemy" and another comparing it to religion with a "doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen."

Stephens' new boss, editorial page editor James Bennett, told the paper's public editor Liz Spayd: "The crux of the question is whether his work belongs inside our boundaries for intelligent debate and I have no doubt that it does. I have no doubt he crosses our bar for intellectual honesty and fairness."

Suffice to say, there are plenty who disagree. One climate scientist has already canceled his subscription in protest, with others watching closely.

No doubt that Stephens can write—he won a Pulitzer in 2012 for lots of opinions on stuff other than climate.

But like other conservative columnists admired for their poetic prose and strident opinions while attacking climate change, the methods used by Stephens might be compared to those of a fake chef producing a lumpy and unsatisfying word soup.

Crap Soup

There's no real care with the preparation and no quality control over the freshness or blending of the ingredients, but these indiscretions are suitably masked with enough flavor-enhancers to give some short-term satisfaction to unsuspecting diners/readers.

But the New York Times should probably be serving up something far more substantial than crap soup and three-day-old bread to its massive audience.

Let's take, for example, a November 2015 column which Stephens wrote in the build up to the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris.

Stephens wrote that a trend in rising global temperatures was "imperceptible" and that the "hysteria" around climate change ignored how this trend could be "a product of natural variation."

There is a mountain of evidence that global warming is not caused by "natural fluctuations" and this evidence has been in existence for decades. To suggest that it isn't, would be to fall below any bar of intellectual honesty erected in the newsroom of the New York Times or in any science academy around the globe.

In the same column, Stephens chose to highlight "the hyping of flimsy studies—melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice" that he said were being used to push a political viewpoint.

Stephens was referring to an error on Himalayan glaciers buried away in a UN report, while choosing to ignore the decades-long trend of melting that has been recorded at glaciers all over the planet.

Climate Agnostic?

Stephens himself has told Huffington Post that he's an "agnostic" on climate change and said while it "seems" the weight of scientific evidence points to human causes for global warming, that evidence might be wrong because "the history of science is replete with consensus positions that have evolved."

Now, the New York Times' own defense of its hiring of Stephens is almost as redundant as the arguments that Stephens borrows from climate science deniers.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, the New York Time's Bennett said there was "more than one kind of denial."

"And to pretend like the views of a thinker like Bret and the millions of people who agree with him on a range of issues, should simply be ignored, that they're outside the bounds of reasonable debate, is a really dangerous form of delusion," he said.

Let's think about what the New York Times opinion page might look like if we based it on the beliefs of millions of Americans.

According to Gallup polling data, some 20 percent of Americans believe in witches, which is roughly half the number of people who think extrasensory perception is actually a thing.

A poll conducted by Harris in 2016 found that two out of five Americans think ghosts are real. Belief in evolution? That's at 49 percent. Creationism? Some 37 percent are down with that.

Lizard people controlling societies? One in 25 Americans fear their presence, but where's their representation in the New York Times editorials?

Arguing that someone should be hired to the editorial desk of one of the world's most influential newspapers because "millions of people" hold a particular belief is a clear path to supporting the sort of delusional thinking that has more Americans believing in the paranormal than accepting that climate change is mostly human-caused.

That 1970s Cooling Myth

Opinions are worth printing when they're based on the preponderance of credible evidence, not the self-interests of fossil fuel–funded "fellows" at so-called think tanks or the whimsy of attention-seeking contrarians.

In an August 2011 interview on Fox News Business, Stephens told viewers "in the 1970s we were supposed to believe in global cooling."

Were we? Well, if you want to base your intellectually robust opinion on a moldy-old myth based on a couple of 1970s news items, then fine.

Alternatively, read a 2008 review of science papers published between 1965 and 1979 finding that only seven papers were predicting cooling against 44 saying temperatures would rise.

Also in that interview, Stephens lauded an essay by the late author Michael Crichton that attacked the consensus on global warming.

In that essay, based on a lecture, Crichton said: "Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had."

So let's just stop a second and think about what Crichton was advocating here.

The consensus of medical science says smoking will massively increase your risk of getting cancer and heart disease, even if you can't say exactly which cigarette killed your wheezy relative. You're being had, folks.

Crichton was putting up a straw man argument—that science is done by consensus—in order to then attack it.

Climate Consensus

When people talk about a consensus on the causes of climate change, they're describing the collective findings of thousands of peer-reviewed articles published in leading scientific journals over decades using multiple methods from a diverse set of observations.

The consensus that climate change is caused by humans comes from the long-studied physical properties of greenhouse gases to the measurements of warming oceans, the atmosphere and the places on the planet where there is or was, ice.

Don't get me wrong here, folks. You're free to choose a glib sound bite from a science fiction writer based on a misrepresentation of the concept of scientific consensus.

But take care not to be had by charlatans promising to chat to your very dead Aunty Betty or save your soul from the claws of the lizard people.

I think it might be time someone broke into the editorial office of the New York Times and raised that bar of intellectual honesty.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Slams Science Deniers for 'Dismantling of Our informed Democracy'

Neil deGrasse Tyson has an urgent message for Americans, especially for some of our most powerful politicians.

In a video posted April 19 on his Facebook page, which already has more than 16 million views, the famed astrophysicist warns that science denial could ultimately destroy democracy.

Alongside the video post, Tyson wrote:

"Dear Facebook Universe, I offer this four-minute video on 'Science in America' containing what may be the most important words I have ever spoken. As always, but especially these days, keep looking up."

The video shows how the U.S. rose from—as Tyson calls it— a "backwoods country" to "one of the greatest nations the world has ever known" because of science.

"But in this, the 21st century, when it comes time to make decisions about science, it seems to me that people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not," he laments.

"When you have an established scientific emergent truth it is true, whether or not you believe in it," he says. "And the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us."

The video then shows debates on heated scientific topics, including GMOs, climate change and vaccines, as well as a clip of Vice President Mike Pence, then a congressman, saying on the House floor, "Let us demand that educators around America teach evolution not as fact, but as theory."

Tyson says this shift in attitudes is a "recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy."

Watch the video here:

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Photo credit: Doug Derwin

Silicon Valley Investor Spending $2 Million to Persuade Elon Musk to Dump Trump

A Silicon Valley venture capitalist said he is willing to spend millions to convince Elon Musk to dump Donald Trump over his "disastrous" climate change policies, and he is pressuring the Tesla/SpaceX CEO to withdraw from the president's business councils.

Doug Derwin's $2 million campaign includes billboards, TV ads and full-page ads in newspapers. On Monday, he launched ElonDumpTrump.com, a website that features videos of Tesla owners upset over Musk's ties to Trump.

"Musk's support for Trump, and his failure to speak out against Trump's policies, are inconsistent with Tesla's values," a campaign petition states.

Over the past month, Derwin has deployed mobile billboards around the offices of Elon Musk's various companies. Photo credit: Doug Derwin

Musk is one of the most admired leaders in tech and is very outspoken on the dangers of climate change. But in December, Musk caught some flak when he joined the Strategic and Policy Forum, an advisory board for the president on business issues.

Bloomberg reported that Derwin decided take action after learning that Musk was meeting with the new president, who is a climate change denier and is rolling back critical environmental regulations. Derwin, who was actually in the process of purchasing a Tesla, decided to cancel his order and donated the $150,000 for the cost of the car to the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Trump was using Elon to legitimize himself," Derwin told Bloomberg. "It says a lot to low information voters that Trump can't possibly be that bad because here is Elon Musk hanging on his every word. That's why I canceled the order. A principled opposition is important here."

Derwin told the Guardian he is particularly incensed by the president's onslaught of environmental regulation rollbacks.

"I want Musk to speak up against Donald Trump's climate change policies," he added. "His failure to do so sends the message that it's not really a big deal and not worth his time."

Photo credit: Doug Derwin

Derwin plans to set up information booths at college campuses to persuade young engineers to avoid working at Musk's companies. He also said he will pay people who've made deposits for the upcoming Tesla Model 3 to cancel their orders.

Derwin said he will stop the campaign and donate one million dollars to a charity of Musk's choice if he severs ties with the administration and speaks out against the president.

In previous statements, Musk said he is committed to pushing Trump on issues like immigration and climate change but was also uncomfortable about the criticism he has received for joining the committees.

"Really don't want to get in politics. I just want to help invent and develop technologies that improve lives. Feels so bizarre," Musk tweeted in February.

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4 Former EPA Chiefs Speak Out Against Trump Administration

It's simple. Clear air, drinkable water and a livable climate should not be partisan issues.

Four former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators were appointed by four different presidents—two Democrats and two Republicans. So, what could they have in common?

All of them have spoken out against the current administration's environmental policies—as new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt repeats fossil fuel talking points, the president signs extreme executive orders that roll back environmental progress and a new federal budget proposes to cut EPA funding by 31 percent.

But here's just some of what these former administrators had to say:

1. William K. Reilly

EPA administrator under President George H. W. Bush (1989 - 1993)

"For a prospective EPA administrator to doubt or even contest a conclusion that 11 national academies of science have embraced is willful political obstruction."

2. Carol Browner

EPA administrator under President Bill Clinton (1993 - 2001)

"This budget makes significant cuts to programs that protect our air, our water, our land, which is not an American value. Eviscerating resources for scientific research on climate change and pollution is not an American value."

3. Christine Todd Whitman

EPA administrator under President George W. Bush (2001-2003)

"I don't recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does … [Scott Pruitt] obviously doesn't care much for the agency or any of the regulations it has promulgated. He doesn't believe in climate change; he wants to roll back the Clean Power Plan."

4. Gina McCarthy

EPA administrator under President Barack Obama (2013 - 2017)

"This budget … really represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land. You just can't put America first when you put the health of its people and its country last and that's what this budget really represents."

Science Has No Party Affiliation

It's clear from the words of these former EPA chiefs—Democrats and Republicans alike—that climate science and the mission of the EPA shouldn't be political footballs. But while what's going on in Washington, DC is discouraging at best, we don't have time to waste on despair and cynicism.

As Climate Reality founder, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, has said, "We must, we can and we will solve the climate crisis. No one man or group can stop the encouraging and escalating momentum we are experiencing in the fight to protect our planet." No matter what's going on in DC, you can take action.

Here are four things you can do right now to be part of the movement to solve the climate crisis:

1. Join us at the People's Climate March on April 29 (in DC and around the country). Like we saw at the Women's March in January, regular people like us can send a powerful message to policymakers when we come together in massive numbers and speak with one voice. On April 29, we're coming together again and marching to demand climate action.

2. Subscribe to email alerts to be notified when the next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training will take place. You'll be the first to know when and where you can attend our next event with hundreds of other committed activists.

3. Take one action every day to stop climate change, organized by our friends at Years of Living Dangerously. Because every action you take can make a difference.

4. Pledge to #StandWithReality. According to a recent Gallup poll, seven in 10 Americans want to emphasize alternative energy over oil, gas and coal. Existing renewable technologies like wind and solar are creating millions of jobs around the world and will help us solve the climate crisis. But we have to make sure our leaders insist on truth, accept reality and listen to science.

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Pruitt Requests Funds for 24/7 Fleet of Bodyguards as Climate Deniers Demand More Action

Despite the Trump administration's concerted effort to roll back climate policies, climate deniers are growing increasingly vocal with their demands for extreme action from Washington.

As the New York Times reported, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt faces ire from the far right over his refusal to challenge the agency's 2009 endangerment finding, which found that carbon emissions were harmful to human health and underpins most climate change rules.

Denier critics are also becoming more vocal on their discontent with the administration's silence on the Paris agreement and Rex Tillerson's approach to running the State Department, as Time reported. Pruitt may be feeling more pressure than usual: Leaked EPA budget documents show a 24/7 security detail request for Pruitt, an increase in the level of security from what was provided to his predecessor Gina McCarthy.

For a deeper dive:

Denier pushback: New York Times, TIME Security detail: Washington Post, Greenwire, ThinkProgress

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Debunking Koch-Funded Group's Efforts to Deny Climate Science

By Brenda Ekwurzel

I have had the thrill of sharing the latest discoveries in the classroom with students who asked probing questions, when I was a faculty member of a university. That journey of discovery is one that parents and family members delight in hearing about when students come home and share what they have found particularly intriguing.

What if the information the student shared was not based on the best available evidence? Misinformation would begin to spread more widely. If corrected, the student might distrust the teacher who may have not known the source material was compromised.

This scenario is not fiction. It has happened and may still be occurring in some U.S. schools. Anyone concerned about this can learn more with an update forthcoming from those who keep track—the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

According to the NCSE, during October 2013 educators received a packet chock full of misinformation about climate change. The report includes an abbreviation that looked similar to a highly respected source—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—for international climate assessments.

It has happened again (starting in March 2017). Many teachers found a packet in their mailbox with a report from the same group that spread the misinformation back in October 2013. This report has a "second edition" gold highlight with a cover image of water flowing over a dam and a misleading title.

The report runs counter to the agreement among scientists who publish on climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. More than 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activities.

The Heartland Institute is infamous for its rejection of climate science and unsavory tactics. According to a reported statement by the CEO of Heartland Institute, they plan to keep sending out copies to educators over the weeks ahead.

If you see any student or teacher with this report or DVD please let NCSE know about it and share what you have learned to help stop the spread.

Brenda Ekwurzel is a senior climate scientist and the director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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